Not everything that happens in life is warm and fuzzy and wonderful. Sometimes life is absolutely terrifying and paralyzing. This has been one of those weeks. Without sharing too many of the gorey details, it’s enough to say that I am now missing a golf ball size piece of my shin and had to have a skin graft taken from another part of my body to close up the hole. This story ends well as I heard yesterday that the margins are clear and the tumor was completely excised. But that is not actually what I want to talk about.
In the early moments after hearing the doctor say ‘it’s aggressive skin cancer and we need to get it out,’ my mind began to race…not so much about what the implications might be to my life if this was really bad news, but to ‘who are the people who are going to get me through this?’
Between biopsy and then surgery there was less than twenty four hours but I managed through Facebook and email to rally my global tribe. My doctor friend who could talk me through probable outcomes and what my shin will look like when it heals, to the endless Whatsapp messaging I did with Vanessa over days when she was meant to be studying for an important exam, to the mimosa morning my Amman Core came to sit on the couch with me and just listen, to the friends abroad who sent karma into the world, meditated with monks or convinced me to shop online for Furla bags to pass the time.
Too often we try and face situations alone, to be the strong one, the one who can manage everything. Society seems to value that and see it as the ultimate success.
I sit here and type this knowing that I dodged a bullet by getting the cancer out when I did. I also know that my life is richer for having a tribe of amazing people in my life. Maybe that’s what I am meant to learn from this experience…. Gather your tribe when you need them.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our contributor Jackie Jenkins in Jordan.
Photo courtesy of kizzzbeth / Flickr.
First day of school! #worldmoms
September is the month of renewal for parents, educators and children, as they return to school to start a new academic year. The smell of the starch in the children’s shirts and the taste of the anticipation and excitement in the air was almost palpable today as I walked into assembly at the Amman Baccalaureate School in Amman, Jordan, where I am consulting.
As the assembly hour unfolded with talk of teamwork, youth empowerment, holistic education and global mindedness, my heart and soul began to swell. At one point I whispered aloud to myself, “I am with my people, this is my language.”
As parents, we hope for and strive to put our children in educational environments where academic performance is solely one piece of the much bigger educational pie. We yearn for our children to exit the educational system after grade 12 with a sense of global responsibility, an ability to empathize with those less fortunate than themselves, as lifelong learners steeped in an understanding of their own unique heritage and mother tongue with strong academic skills as the spine to all this greater knowledge. As an educator, I know that data supports these values and shows this to be the education with the most impact.
Over the next few weeks, homes around the world will fill with stories from the first days of the 2015/16 academic year and there will no doubt be celebrations of friendships renewed, as well as, tears from children who feel disappointed with their class placement.
These precious moments provide us, as parents, a unique teachable moment.
Don’t miss this opportunity to introduce terms like resilience and grit; characteristics, which, in the long run, will mark life success.
I know with certainty that I will be making my children’s favorite dinner tonight in the hopes that whatever stories come from my ninth and fourth grader, I am ready to seize the teachable moment and remind them of what is truly important to learn from school.
What do you talk about with your children regarding the most important things to get out of their education?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our contributor, Jackie Jenkins in Jordan.
Photo credit to the author.
Those moments, when you are driving the carpool to swimming or to soccer, and the children in the backseat are talking about you while having forgotten your presence, merely inches away in the front –those are the moments of truth.
Over the past few months, there has been plenty of discussion in our house about the coalition war which is taking place just across Jordan’s borders. We have talked, constantly, about the important work that my husband is doing with the UNICEF Jordan office and how children, just like our own, are being forced out of their schools and homes because of the continued fighting in Syria. As all parents do, we try to explain why we do what we do and live as we do.
Despite claims by my children that I am brainwashing them about making a better world, I always felt the need to repeat these conversations, over and over again, because I never really knew how much our children internalized. And then I drove the carpool.
From the backseat of our Prado, the conversation went like this:
D – How long will you be here?
C – Oh, we’ll be here for five years because my dad has important work to do with UNICEF helping kids.
D – We will be here for two, and then the Embassy moves us back to Washington. Do you have a Wii?
C – Yeah.
D – Do you play Grand Theft Auto?
C- No, I’m not allowed to play violent games. My mum is all about peace. One time, I tried to convince her that the games with guns were really for hypnotizing the other guy, but she didn’t believe me. In her last job, she was the principal of a peace school.
In that moment, I knew he understood.
He knew why we are here and what we stand for as a family. In many ways, I felt my job as a mother was done. I could pat myself on the back and feel proud of the work my husband and I had accomplished. Until I heard the rest of the carpool chat.
D – You know Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare?
C – Yeah.
D – Maybe your mum will let you play that because it’s not really violent, it’s just plants.
And then I knew, you can be the Peace Mum, but you can’t stop having the conversation.
What are the repeated conversations you have with your children to share your values and beliefs?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Photo credit to the author.
Outside Amman, the capital city of my new home, life continues to unfold much as it has for centuries. Or so it seems at first glance.
Recently, during a trip to Wadi Rum and Petra, we met and dined with many local Bedouin people. For dinner, they invited us to share the meat of a sheep which had been freshly slaughtered for our visit. Our hosts had different histories and journeys that brought them around the fire pit, but they all shared a wonderful pride for their country, their renowned hospitality, and their treasured historical and geological landmarks.
Mubarak, a man about my age, with a weathered face and kind, soft eyes, talked to me for hours around the fire. He told me of his family’s history, the way he grew up moving from one part of the desert to another during different parts of the year, herding sheep and searching for firewood. He talked of the Bedouin people’s common ancestry and desire to keep traditions alive, and about his favorite sand dune in the whole desert–his eyes clouded over as he recalled memories of the spot and described how the sand is as fine as flour. Then, without even a second thought, he grabbed his mobile phone out of his flowing, white shirt and asked if I would like to Skype with his friends Robert and Dee in Mexico.
To me, two worlds collided.
I couldn’t help but fall back on my elbows and laugh.
My children, like yours, are growing up in an ever-changing world. Preserving unique cultures, traditions and practices is becoming more difficult as we connect digitally through Skype, Facebook, What’sApp and other technology.
I see technology as a great equalizer, an incredible tool for those in the developing world–but also as something to treated with great care if we are to preserve the traditional practices in the world.
What do you do with your children to preserve family or cultural traditions? Does technology help or hinder your efforts?
Photo credit to the author. This is an original post to World Moms Blog.
The girl children in the library reading the books which Jackie Jenkins bought.
We talk about it a lot as educators and parents. A few weeks ago I saw what it really means: to dig deep and push on with a smile on your face and a belief in a better tomorrow, even when faced with war on your doorstep and trauma in your past.
I had been waiting to go to the Zataari refugee camp with Rob (my husband and Representative for UNICEF Jordan) since we arrived in Jordan. The day finally arrived.
We viewed the water sanitation facilities and delivery trucks, which was fascinating. As an educator, however, I was most excited to see some of the schools. I was in my element the minute we walked through the gates. While Rob went to check on the status of classroom desks, play space construction, and water in the latrines, I wanted to see some kids.
I met two incredible principals of the girls’ section of school (girls attend school in the morning, boys in the afternoon). They told me that the Ministry of Education has done an excellent job at getting them all the teaching materials they need and that the school was in good condition. But class sizes are a problem. . . and so we began to walk. . . .
Grade 2 has more than 100 students in a classroom. Girls sit three to a bench, with the overflow sitting on the floor. When I walked in, they burst into a song, which I am sure I was meant to stand and smile at. But I can’t help myself around small people, so I just started dancing all over the place, up the aisles and in the front. The girls laughed and laughed. Kids are the same everywhere! But these children deserve a whole lot more after what they have been through.
World Mom, Jackie Jenkins, with Iman Alkhaldi, the Librarian.
Luckily, there are people in their lives like Iman, whom I also met that day. She single-handedly built a library in one of the containers that serve as school rooms. She painted it, collected wood to build shelves, and is now looking for books. She spoke good enough English for me to understand her dreams and passion, and for me to tell her, “It is women like you who will change the world. You already are.” She cried, and I cried, and I also promised I would fill that room with books written in Arabic and English.
So I left with a new mission. If Iman can build a library oasis, if the dedicated teachers can manage to educate 100 students in a classroom without a complaint after walking out of their country affected by war, I could certainly help fill that library.
Within hours of being home, we set up a crowdrise page for donations. I sent out emails to international schools globally telling them the story of Iman and the children I had met. My 14 year old daughter talked it up on her social media networks, and I went to bed that night feeling a fire in my belly that I had not felt since my arrival. A deep passion to make a small difference in an immediate way. It seems the story resonated with many. In just 48 hours, I had reached my target goal, and was able to purchase more than 500 English and Arabic books, which were delivered to the library within the week.
Grit plus humanity–the connection and compassion with those around us–can accomplish astounding results. Yet again, I am filled with a sense of hope for the future of a region plagued by conflict and stress.
How do you help our children grow up with grit and the perseverance to face the challenges inevitable in their future? What is one concrete thing you might be able to do in your home or life that is a change for good?